In the middle of an argument with my husband the other night – one of those getting ready for bed and “oops” someone said the wrong thing experiences – I had a humbling revelation. I discovered that making comparisons is just another way of playing the blame game.
As someone who holds the intention to stop blaming others, I’d completely overlooked the not-so-innocent habit of making comparisons, especially comparisons between men and women where women always come out on top! Comparisons such as women are better at nurturing relationships, better at communication, better at being thoughtful, better at anticipating relationship problems, better at taking action to solve those problems, etc. As relationship coaches and mentors, understanding the differences between men and women is part of our business! However, there is an important distinction between understanding differences and making evaluative comparisons.
Stop Playing The Blame Game
Then a friend of mine, Kaliana, expressed this thought at her blog, “Erase from your relationship ‘who is to blame’ and replace it with ‘how do we grow?’” Although the longer a relationship lasts, the more likely a couple is to atrophy into playing the blame game; some people carry it from one relationship to another. They sing the “S/he done me wrong” song on the first date and ever after until the next refrain is, “You done me wrong!” At any point in your relationship (or your life for that matter), you can learn to shift from the blame game to the joy and satisfaction game by asking yourself at every turn, “How do I/we grow?”
Blaming others shows up in many ways. I’ve already mentioned the comparison version. When women compare their men to themselves or their girlfriends and find the men lacking, the men wind up getting blamed for their masculine essence. On one of this year’s Super Bowl commercials, I heard the most amazing line from a man about his woman. It went something like this, “I will listen to you when you want to talk and not speak when what I want to say isn’t what you want to hear.” That’s insane! You don’t have to read between the lines, the not so hidden message is right there. Men, to make your women happy, don’t speak – ever; unless, of course, you plan to agree with her.
The commercial was funny but many couples’ lived reality isn’t. Any comparison that results in shutting down communication means somebody got blamed for being less than ideal – for being human.
Blame Without Words
More typical ways people play the blame game shows up in things like name calling, tone of voice, eye rolling, exiting the room, resentment filled sighs, etc. You know when you do that you’ve blamed your lover for something. If you’re sensitive at all you realize that you just struck a mean blow with the blame and now any further conversation will take a downhill turn before things can get better between you.
What you may not realize is that even when you think you’re keeping those little blame game behaviors private; such as rolling your eyes out of their view, claming the sigh means you’re just tired, or calling them names inside your head but not speaking it out loud, the blame game is still going on and suffering will ensue.
My friend’s antidote of asking how we can grow is genius! Oftentimes, the very thing that gets on your nerves today was something you once found charming. Asking how you can grow from this experience can get you back in touch with how you once perceived them and what you felt about them when you first fell in love. It can be a reminder that you don’t want to become one of those embittered couples that no one wants to be around.
How To Stop Blaming Your Partner
If you find yourself blaming your lover because he or she has gotten into the habit of taking you for granted, perhaps even being downright rude and mean, you can grow from the experience by exploring what in you has allowed yourself to be treated badly. If you find yourself blaming your lover because of the complex differences between men and women you can grow through making the choice to celebrate your differences instead.
If the blame game turns into one of those excruciating, cathartic fights, you can grow from choosing again to commit yourselves to love each other with expressions of loving kindness, compassion, empathy, and respect. You can grow each and every time you stop yourself at the blame game and make another choice. When you are vigilant about not playing the blame game, choosing instead to grow from the stuff that bothers you, you find you have a happy relationship, even a life, full of joy and satisfaction.